Iran’s New 2023 Saipa Atlas Is a Really Terrible Car

Iran’s largest automaker has just pulled the covers off of its newest model, the 2023 Saipa Atlas. Based on the 1996 Kia Pride, has been re-bodied to look like a new car. Not a modern new car, but different. And with those 1996 connections, even Saipa would have to admit this is a really crappy car. Let’s dig in to see if anything is really improved, or not.

Is a 1987 car a new car?

Saipa Atlas
2023 Saipa Atlas sedan | Saipa

Saipa’s Atlas is a re-bodied version of its Pride, which made its debut in 2017. And the Pride was just a licensed 1996 Kia. But that architecture, based on the X200 architecture, dates back to 1987. Its stablemates were the Kia Pride, Ford Festiva, and Mazda 121. It’s not the worst platform ever made, but it is really old.

Over the years Saipa has improved the Pride, but using the basic 1987 platform allows for only so much improvement. So now we have the Atlas. Looking at the DLO tells you immediately this is just a reskinned Pride, so we’re right back to that old Kia underneath. It features a new front end, which looks almost identical to Ford’s Fiesta, without the Blue Oval.

Does the Saipa Atlas have any performance at all?

Saipa Atlas
2023 Saipa Atlas sedan | Saipa

The bumper cover in the rear is revised, and both the front and rear lighting has been switched to LED. A new tailgate appears more contemporary. And those snazzy 13-inch hubcaps (or are they 14-inch?), tell you they’re attached to something really old. 

Not brave enough to release interior shots, we know of a couple of improvements. For starters, the Atlas gets a seven-inch infotainment screen. To that, Saipa highlights automatic LED headlights, automatic windshield wipers, and optional electric seats, heated mirrors, a sunroof, electronic speed control, and blind spot detection. Those last couple of features really surprises us. 

The somewhat noisy 1.5-liter gasoline engine has its sound muffled with more insulation than its predecessor. That four-cylinder is rated at 87 hp, with 129 lb-ft of torque. We would stick with the available manual transmission to at least try to gain some semblance of performance. But there is also a CVT automatic transmission, which you would expect from this rather bland offering. What could be worse?

Does the Atlas have any new car safety features?

Saipa Atlas
2023 Saipa Atlas sedan | Saipa
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Saipa has found a lot of use for the X200 platform, with the Atlas just joining in on the party. It also makes the Tiba sedan, Saina sedan, and 151 pickup, from the same architecture. That’s good for them, but what about the passengers?

Ah, with the platform being so old, driving aids and safety features we take for granted are not part of the Atlas’ package. But is that even a consideration for Iranian consumers? For this segment, probably not. The goal here is affordability. 

Using all that old crap means costs have been amortized for decades. Plus, if buyers want more, there is a Saipa SUV and sedan that are rebadged second-generation Toyota Yaris models. So while we wouldn’t want to be in an accident in one of these cheap Saipa cars, there are plenty of Iranians looking for good, cheap transportation who surely don’t mind.